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Account of the Russian Vapour-Bath. By T. S. TRAILL, M. D).

Communicated by the Author. * The existence in Hamburgh of two establishments where the Russian Vapour. Bath is used, brought to my recollection the descriptions given by Acerbi, and other travellers, of the intense heat and sudden transition to cold, so much relished by the nations of Northern Europe, and raised my curiosity to experience in my own person the effects of this singular species of bathing. I was further induced to take this step from finding myself suddenly oppressed with a violent feverish cold, which raised my pulse considerably above 100°, and rendered me little able to join the public dinner-table in the Apollo Saal.

Accompanied by two friends who wished to make the same experiment, I repaired to the ALEXANDERBAD, which is under the direction of its proprietor, a Jewish physician, who had liberally opened it gratuitously to the members of the Society of Naturforscher, then assembled at Hamburgh. We were ushered into a very neat saloon, provided with six couches, beside each of which stood a dressing table, and a convenient apparatus for suspending the clothes of the bather. Here we undressed, and were furnished with long flannel dressing-gowns and warm slippers, after which we were all conducted into a small hot apartment, where we were desired to lay aside our gowns and slippers, and were immediately introduced into the room called the bath, in which the dim light admitted through a single window of three panes, just sufficed to shew us that there were in it two persons, like ourselves in puris naturalibus ; one of whom was an essential personage, the operator, the other a gentleman just finishing the process by a copious affusion of cold water over his body. This sudden introduction into an atmosphere of hot steam was so oppressive, that I was forced to cover my face with my hands, to moderate the painful impression on the lips and nostrils, and was compelled to withdraw my head, as much as possible, from the most heated

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* Read before the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool.

part of the atmosphere, by sitting down on a low bench which ran along two sides of the bath.

At first our modesty felt some alarm at our perfect nudity, and that of those around us; but I soon felt that it would be absolutely impossible to endure the contact of any sort of covering of our nakedness in a temperature so high ; and consoled myself with the reflection, that it was no worse than the promiscuous bathing I had so often practised at the sea-baths of Liverpool ; an exposure which, notwithstanding my passion for bathing, was always disagreeable at the commencement of each season; but to which custom had soon rendered me indifferent.

The bath-room is about 15 feet long, by about as much in breadth. It is lined with wood, rendered quite black by constant immersion in hot steam. · On two sides it has three tiers of benches, or rude couches, each of which is calculated to hold two persons, with their feet toward each other; so that twelve persons might bathe as the same time. The lowest bench projects farthest into the room ; they rise two feet above each other; and each has a wooden pillow at the ends.

In one corner of the farther end of the apartment stands the furnace, which is supplied with fuel from without, and has a thin arch of fire-brick turned over the fire, against which the flame reverberates, until the arch is red hot. Over this arch is built a small brick chamber, the only aperture to which is by a small door about two feet long, and fifteen inches wide, opening nearly to the level of the arch. To increase the heated surface, numerous small earthen jars, or broken pottery, are piled on the arch, and all are kept up to a low red heat. On these, a basin of water is occasionally dashed ; and the clouds of steam which instantly issue from the door of the heated chamber, form the source of heat employed to maintain the temperature of the bath.

In the corner opposite to the furnace is a reservoir of cold water, into which the person who manages the bath frequently, during our stay in the bath, plunged to cool his surface; a precaution not unnecessary for an individual who is exposed daily eight hours, stark naked, to a temperature quite oppressive to the uninitiated.

Yet this exposure and this alternation cannot be unhealthy; for I never saw a more athletic man than

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this person, who informed me that he had been constantly engaged in this occupation for sixteen or eighteen months.

The centre of the ceiling of the bath-room is perforated by numerous holes which allow a copious shower-bath of cold water to descend on the head of the bather, when a valve managed by a cord is opened.

Such is the apparatus necessary for a Russian vapour-bath.

After remaining some time in the bath, the first sensations of oppressive heat subsided, and I ascended to the second tier of benches, the wood of which, however, was somewhat cooled by the plentiful affusion of cold water. At each remove this operation is repeated; otherwise the contact of the wood would be insupportable to the skin. It is needless to say, that the perspiration very soon began to run from every pore, not merely as a moist exhalation, but ran off in copious streams. This greatly moderated the sensation of heat.

After lying extended for some time on the second tier of benches, a bucket of cold water was dashed on the upper one, and we removed there ; but the heat, so near the ceiling, was fully as oppressive as on first entering ; and I found it necessary to allow the air to enter my nose through my fingers. If I inhaled it with the mouth wide open, I felt an oppressive heat in my chest; but by degrees even this degree of heat be. came supportable; though I never was able to sit upright on the upper bench; so strong was the temperature of the humid atmosphere close to the ceiling.

While we were groping our way from bench to bench, the assistant more than once plunged headlong into his cold bath, to refresh himself ere he commenced on us the next part of his professional occupation.

We were one by one requested to descend to the second tier ; and the assistant, grasping in his hand a bundle of birch rods, began assiduously to whip his patients, who lay extended on the bench at full length, from head to heel. This application differs essentially from the well remembered scholastic birch discipline; for the leaves are left on the twigs, and the sensations produced in no way resemble the effect of the instrument employed in English schools to convey a fundamental knowledge of Greek and Latin into the heads of our youth. In fact, this

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species of whipping is performed very dexterously, with a sort of brushing motion, from the shoulders downwards; and the application becomes general over the body and limbs, as the bather turns on his wooden couch. The sensations produced by this operation are agreeable, and are very far from producing that excessive redness of the surface described by Acerbi.

The operator now anoints the whole body with a liquid mild soap; and, after again mounting to the upper tier for some time, we descend one by one to the middle of the floor, where a powerful affusion of cold water from the shower-bath in the ceiling removes every vestige of soap. This sudden affusion of cold water is remarkably grateful : it is scarcely possible to describe the effect, which is highly exhilarating and refreshing.

It is usual again to undergo the steaming after the temperature of the bath is increased by the affusion of water on the glowing pottery in the furnace. For this purpose, the operator opens the door above described, and placing us out of the direction of the immediate efflux of the steam, he dashes, in successive jets, a small bucket of water into the furnace. The apartment is instantly filled with clouds of steam, at a high temperature; and when the door of the aperture is closed, we resume our places on the benches, gradually proceeding to the highest, as we become inured to the temperature. From the upper tier we finally descend to have the cold shower-bath repeated; after which we leave the bathing room, are rubbed dry by assistants in the small heated apartment, where we resume the flannel dressing-gown and slippers, and are reconducted to the saloon, where we find the couches spread with blankets; and we recline for half an hour in a most profuse perspiration, and in a state of luxurious languor, and mental tranquillity.

On a subsequent occasion, I provided myself with the means of ascertaining the temperature of the bathing-room, and noted its effect on the pulse of myself and two other bathers. The heat is generally from 45° to 50° of Reaumur; that is, from 133o.25 to 144o.5 of Fahrenheit. On the occasion referred to, it ranged in the bath, during my stay, from 42° to 46° R., = 126.5 and 1250.5 F. in the lower part of the bathing-room ; but I was unable to examine the temperature near the ceiling, on account of the thick vapour, and the intensity of the tempera

VOL. XIII. NO. XXV. --JULY 1832.


ture, which affected my eyes. This temperature, high as it is, is far short of what Acerbi asserts of the Finnish baths ; he says that they reached from 70° to 75o of Celsius, = to 158° to 167 of our scale : but perhaps his thermometers were subject to the influence of the open fire-place in the rude baths of that people; for their furnace consisted of a few loose stones piled into a sort of rude arch, over a fire on the floor of the hut: or perhaps he did not accurately ascertain the temperature; as he never entered the bath but momentarily, for the purpose of placing his thermometer ; and I am confirmed in this by observing that the Finnish operator, in his plate, appears dressed in her ordinary clothes, which I should think insupportable in so high a temperature as he assigns.

The effect of the Russian vapour-bath is to accelerate the pulse, which soon regains its natural standard on leaving the bath ; and, when I took it in a highly feverish state, I was within an hour after entirely free of fever, and able fully to enjoy the philosopbic soirée that evening.

On bathing a second time, I was accompanied by the same two friends : our pulses were before about 74 in a minute. On just coming out of the bath,

Dr Traill's pulse,
Mr Johnston's do.
Mr Palk's do.

A quarter of an hour afterwards, while on the couch, they were
as follows:

Dr Traill's pulse,
Mr Johnston's do.

Mr Palk's do.
After being dressed, and sitting in an adjoining coffee-room,
perhaps one hour after the bath,

Dr Traill's pulse beat,
Mr Johnston's do.
Mr Palk's do.

: 80
These experiments shew the great difference in the excitabi-
lity of the heart in different individuals, from exposure to the
same heat. My pulse, in my best health, is about 70 ; since I
had the gout it ranges from 74 to 80, but is very easily ex-
cited; and I have often found it raised to more than 90 by an
interesting conversation, or even a cup of strong tea.

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